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  • Gary Glemboski

The Lure of the Sub-Second Draw

There have been many discussions over the years regarding caliber effectiveness, shooting stance/position, sighted vs non-sighted, optics vs irons, etc. The debates are all valid and … endless. Some will never be swayed from their beliefs while others are more ‘flexible’. I believe I am planted firmly in the latter camp. Over the years, I have made several changes to the way I shoot. Some changes were because I found a better/easier way or, something was pointed out that needed attention. I still have strong opinions about some things, but we’ll save that for another day.


What I have noticed lately, especially online, is the attention being given to sub-second draws. Now, before anyone says, “He’s only b****ing because he can’t do a sub one-second draw!” Not true. Can I do it every time? Nope. Do I average a sub-second draw? Nope. Have I done it? Yep. But I don’t obsess over it, nor do I spend much time trying to attain it. And I have my reasons, as I am sure others do as well. But I get to present mine here.


In actuality, how valuable is a fast draw? It would seem that a fast draw in competition is valuable. Maybe so. However, I recently attended an instructor development class where, during a presentation, the instructor illustrated why a sub-second draw, in a self-defense context, may not be that important. He mentioned a match he was in and was beaten by the eventual winner, by .33 of a second over 14 stages. That amounts to .02 seconds per stage. In a real confrontation, that amount of time would be insignificant. Faster isn’t necessarily always better.


I have also seen many demonstrations online where the shooter is demonstrating their prowess with the sub-second draw and firing a shot but neglect to show the target - not to mention how far away it is. Depending on who you ask, the average distance in real life shootings ranges between 9-21 feet. At the closer distances (‘1-2 steps and a reach’) merely getting to your gun and getting shots on target would be the major concern. How fast you would be able to do that would be situationally dependent. Are you fending off an attack? Are you moving? Are you being shot at? What are you wearing? All that and more would have an impact on the speed of your draw.


In other fast draw demonstrations, I see the demonstrator ‘fudging’ by already gripping the bottom of their cover garment and having their hands already near their gun. Okay for the camera but not so much for real world applications. Point here is when you would do that? Do you have a crystal ball? If you see potential danger and can’t remove yourself from the situation, you may have no choice but to prepare and get a head start on the draw, I get that. As Clint Smith says, “Always cheat; always win.” I have to agree. But you should be practicing for the worse case scenarios. I’ll pass on a quip from Larry Vickers (former 1st SFOD-D operator), “In a real situation, you’ll only be about 75% of your worst day on the range.” I’ll add this, “If you know you’re going to fight in a mud hole, go find a mud hole and train in it.”


In competition, you know you’re going to draw. You are asked if you are prepared, you check your gear, and then, you get a signal. You are dialed in and ready with all your gear just so. “Shooter ready. Standby … BEEP!” You draw from your ‘competition rig’ and proceed to vanquish all the ‘Paper Bad Guys’. After you’re finished, you are asked to clear your gun and make it safe, and your targets are scored. What part of that is close to real life? In real life your arms will be full of groceries, you’ll be wrangling your children into the car, you may get hit, or you’ll be focused on something else. Suddenly, BOOM! There he is. I’d be willing to bet the mortgage that your sub-second draw will be negligible compared to keeping your head attached to the rest of your body.


To wrap this up, here are some final comments:


1. I am not against competition. I think it has some merit and I did a lot of it back in the day and did okay. What I don’t like is to see what began as a legitimate way to test SELF-DEFENSE shooting skills turn into a version of “Call of Duty” with real guns. I have seen the same thing happen in the martial arts. Most winners would get creamed in a real fight.

2. For self-defense, the focus should be on getting the gun out QUICKLY and under CONTROL then, HITTING the target in vital areas enough times (i.e., accuracy) to make him/her stop what they are doing. Pistols are not the ideal self-defense weapon, but they are convenient and capable if employed correctly.

3. If you lose a gunfight (i.e., get killed) nobody will ever talk about how fast (or slow) your draw was, what caliber gun you had or how you were standing. They will, however, talk about you being dead.

4. When you train, train HARD! Do the work you need to do - Practice what you suck at! DO THE WORK!


If a sub-second draw is your goal, have at it and good luck. In my opinion, if you carry for self-defense/personal protection, there are many other things you need to work on that are as or more important than a sub-one second draw.


BE SAFE. BE EFFECTIVE. BE READY.



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